July 13, 2016

Low-So Cabbage Shumai


I’ve thought a lot about this post. I’ve written it and rewritten about a dozen times in my head. I’ve questioned how much to share, how personal to get, how much to keep this post free from deep thoughts and politics. And I can promise that after today, things will return to their regularly scheduled food programming. But I want to risk something.

The truth is, I’m white. I take Soul Cycle classes. I shop at farmers markets and Whole Foods. Although I’ve hit the glass ceiling a few times as a woman, I’m treated with respect and I’ve been raised to believe my options are limitless. All this is fine and good. And I’m a good person, too (though perhaps biased). With my position, I work hard to change a lot of things in this world for the better: whether that is increasing food access and sustainability, or the way we approach our healthcare. I know I’m lucky.

But the other truth is that I don’t have to worry that my husband or daughter or father or mother will be treated differently, seen differently, or valued differently because of what they look like. Even though, lately, I find myself praying every time I drop my kid off at preschool or planning escape routes when in crowded places, with all the hate, fear, and uncertainty in this world right now, I can choose to ignore it. I can hide in my spandex, in the aisles of a grocery store. I can go on with my day per usual. This is my privilege.

That’s not the purpose of this blog, though.

Almost a dozen years ago, I sat in a hospital room planning out my funeral. My body was failing, my health in peril. I imagined a huge celebration, lots of dancing, and even a (funny) video from yours truly. Maybe a dance routine, too. In my mind, death could look different. It could be bright and cheerful. It could be uplifting. It could inspire someone else to live a full life. And when I ultimately survived but faced kidney failure, I carried that spirit forward. Every moment of impossibility, fear, and uncertainty is met with creativity. Every challenge is overcome with a solution. And while I’ve spent the last seven years filling you with things you thought you’d never eat again, I hope you also found each recipe to be a metaphor for something bigger: choice.

Change begins with the simple choice to see something differently. To alter your perspective, to educate yourself, and then, to act on it. Whether that’s your own wellness journey or the safety and rights of fellow human beings. This is a superpower we all possess.


For your edible metaphor today, I give you Cabbage Shumai, a clever gluten, grain-free, Paleo, Whole30, low-so way to make the traditional Dim Sum dish. But more importantly, something worthy of a crowd. Because I hope you gather one at your house sometime soon to help urge each other into action — whatever form that may take. Fittingly, Dim Sum in Cantonese means “touch your heart.” So instead of hiding behind the shumai, I hope you use them to start a conversation. To share. To strengthen your knowledge of your community and of other communities. To take new perspectives and start creating solutions. To open your heart and maybe touch someone else’s.

Sometimes overcoming one small hurdle is all we need to tackle the next, bigger one.

Thank you, I Heart Umami and No Crumbs Left for this genius swap and inspiration. And while this recipe uses meat, you can make it totally vegetarian by replacing the pork with shredded zucchini and sautéed mushrooms. Just be sure to cook and sauté first (and press out excess liquid) before filling the cabbage leaves.



  • 1 small cabbage
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 medium zucchini, shredded and pressed free of excess liquid
  • 2 green onions, root removed and minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt-free Chinese five spice
  • 1 egg white

Begin by placing the whole cabbage head in a large pot, filling it with warm water, and bringing it to a boil. Turn heat down to a low boil with lid still on and continue cooking until leaves separate and become malleable. You may have to cook the inner leaves longer than the outer leaves. Then place leaves in a colander, rinse with cook water, and use either towels or a salad spinner to get rid of excess water.

Next, combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. If you’re worried about undercooked pork, you can always brown/sauté the pork first! Layer a bamboo steamer with a circle of parchment paper or a plate. Then, starting with the smallest ones first, place a leaf in your hand molding it into a cup-like shape. Fill the middle with about a Tablespoon of filling. Press into the meat as you close up the cabbage leaf so they stick to each other, folding the top edges together like a gathered coin purse.  Nestle it in the bamboo steamer. Continue until all the meat filling has been used, cutting bigger leaves in half and getting a bit more creative with your folding as needed.

Fill the bottom of your wok with water and place steamer into the wok (it should not be touching the shumai). Bring the water to a simmer and cook until pork is fully cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. Eat immediately. Reheat in microwave. Serve as an appetizer or even make for a week of healthy, untraditional breakfast bites. Ultimately, enjoy!

ChihYu July 25, 2016 at 8:48 am

Thank you, my dear! They look absolutely fantastic and so happy you enjoy my paleo take on dim sum-shumai ! Yum yum :))

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